On July 21st the M&E Thursday Talk series was hosted by Tom Gillhespy & Laura Thisted of Peace Direct who led a discussion on Putting the Local First: Learning to adapt when measuring change. This report aims to show how the M&E reporting of local partners to donor organizations helps or hinders how programming can deal with changing contexts. The research, through interviews with local civil society organizations in Eastern DRC and the analysis of three case studies, assesses current M&E practices, explores possible solutions to the main areas of concerns and provides a set of recommendations in order to develop a more reflective and responsive approach.
This research reflects many of the same issues that we emphasize for results-based protection:
- Developing and using different tools and indicators that are more accessible to local actors is needed but more so, there needs to be a systemic change to the way M&E is conceived and conducted: involving local actors in developing M&E procedures, encouraging shared learning across stakeholders, building closer relationships between donors and local partners, and generating an environment that can make sense of contextual changes and approve adaptations of programs.
- Recognizing that local actors often have informal M&E systems which focus on real time data collection and informal feedback mechanisms; however, these are rarely documented
- Externally designed M&E systems/processes discouraged learning and adaptation due to a series of factors including rigidity of M&E budgets, analytical skills, and project rigidity
- We need to better link M&E to learning and to adaptation to see its full utility
- Findings and recommendations included:
- New approaches for M&E should build on what already exists
- Need processes to generate context-specific indicators – not only at the country level, but at the community-level that can help understand change over time
- Use M&E as an opportunity to build relationships between donors and local actors to build trust and shared learning; best examples of flexibility exist where good relationships/trust have already been built
- Build flexibility into traditional approaches (nested log frames, built in learning objectives, assumptions that trigger change)
- Can ensure dedicated time for learning, adapting, changing a theory of change, etc. by setting that expectation for learning activities and objectives at the start of program design/implementation